By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
I know, I get it....
We don't want to talk about anything but the negative vs Florida State, right?
Currently, most LSU fans can't stand to hear anything but all the wasted opportunities, widespread ineptitude or disorganized chaos from Sunday night....and we've covered those topics and will continue to cover them.
While this team deserves a kick in the ass for disrespecting themselves through that shocking collective performance, there were still bright spots and a few positives for the Tigers.
You can be down on this squad all you want, but there will always be the positive found alongsidethe negative, something which will become more evident as we go through LSU's 5 best performers vs Florida State:
5. JARAY JENKINS
Hauling in the Tigers' only two scores through the air, Jaray Jenkins set himself apart as another LSU wide receiving hero.
Despite being one of the last receivers mentioned by analysts, when LSU has needed a "do or die" aerial play, Jaray Jenkins delivers, punctuating his already sterling Tiger career by becoming the current most trusted WR on roster.
Reeling in a contested 3rd down to keep an important second half LSU drive rolling, keeping LSU's comeback fight alive with a touchdown on a 22 yard catch and scamper, before capturing an ultimate, adrenaline-injected, heart-racing 4th and goal touchdown with 0:00 on the clock, Jenkins' legacy is now secure:
On a night when LSU's two most talked about wide outs made crucial errors or completely failed to show up whatsoever, the Pride of Jena must now and forever be considered a great LSU receiver.
Catching 4 TDs over 2 appearances vs Florida, supplying an unforgettable Death Valley moment when his last second touchdown beat A&M in iconic fashion, holding his own against Northwestern State as a freshman among the greatest wide receiving unit of all time (67 yards from 5 catches), while hauling in a trio of multi-touchdown games (10 now for his career), Jenkins is the consummate teammate, student and professional....a Tiger we can all be proud of, regardless of your disappointment level.
4. BJ OJULARI
6 TACKLES (5 SOLO)
3 QB HITS
Playing every snap like a true #18, BJ Ojulari showcased his all-around defensive prowess during 4 frustrating quarters against Florida State.
Starting with a sack on the first play from scrimmage, Ojulari was a madman, making 6 tackles on the perimeter or up the gut, greatly helping LSU's defense shut down Florida State's running game.
After totaling over 400 yards on the ground vs Duquesne, LSU brought FSU back down to earth with just 132 total rushing yards, allowing 49 yards at the most to any single back and holding Mike Norvell's offense to 3.5 per carry on average.
There were a few other brilliant moments from Ojulari, including his 5 pressures forcing incomplete passes from Jordan Travis, stalling drives and contributing to the Tigers' near comeback.
Ojulari gave everything he had on every down....I'm sure he received high marks from any NFL scouts watching him last night, fighting off an early knee contusion which nearly stopped hearts inside the Superdome.
3. MEKHI WINGO
6 TACKLES (6 SOLO)
Even though Mekhi Wingo stood behind Maason Smith on LSU's roster, the former 2021 All-SEC Freshman and 16th nationally-ranked transfer in America produced a fantastic outing, busting through FSU's better than expected offensive front for stop after stop.
Adding a few key pressures, forcing Jordan Travis into big hits and blowing up rushing plays, Wingo's central presence broke up the Seminoles' rhythm and disrupted numerous snaps.
But when it came down to changing football games, nothing could prepare you for what Wingo was able to produce at his own 3 yard line only seconds after forcing FSU off the field with another strong stand.
Due to Malik Nabers' second fumble during a punt return, LSU's defense had their backs against the wall....firmly pressed up against their own end zone.
Everyone in the building, across America, the college football-loving world (Odyssey subscriber and friend Thivanka waking up to watch in Sri Lanka at 5am)....anyone and everyone believed Florida State were set to score the proper kill shot, ending LSU's chances right then and there.
Yet Wingo refused to give in....
Florida State ran a ridiculous toss dive play, the ball came squirming out of Treshaun Ward's hands and Wingo was there to pounce, fighting through the guts of a massive scrum to provide one of the craziest turnarounds and emotional rollercoaster endings we've seen in some time.
On his LSU debut, Mekhi Wingo didn't just announce himself as a serious player or solid contributor, I argue without his clogging powers and central battling, LSU would've surrendered far more on the ground.
During an evening where DL Coach Jamar Cain lost his most athletically imperious D-lineman to a non-contact, season-ending ACL tear on their opening drive, Mekhi Wingo stood up and was counted;
On a night where DL Coach Jamar Cain looked on as starting DT Jaquelin Roy experienced a poor game and Ali Gaye received an ejection for the most obvious targeting call you'll ever see, Mekhi Wingo made the biggest defensive play of the night, handing Jayden Daniels an opportunity to send the game to overtime.
2. MAJOR BURNS
8 TACKLES (6 SOLO)
At safety, both Major Burns or Jay Ward enjoyed strong nights, yet it felt like Burns was making up for lost time.
After ending 2021's final games out injured, missing Spring practices entirely, while only fully recovering in late July, Major Burns was on a mission to destroy.
Smashing opponents, blowing up plays, breaking up a 30-40 yard pass downfield with a fingertip, collecting a team-high 8 tackles, including 2 behind the line of scrimmage, many LSU fans will find Major Burns' performance to be DBU's strongest silver lining.
A total breakout moment for Burns and an opportunity he took full advantage of, putting himself above Joe Foucha as the starting strong safety, not just because of Foucha's suspension, but through Major's venomous play.
1 . JAYDEN DANIELS
209 PASSING YARDS
2 TD PASSES
114 RUSHING YARDS
13 BROKEN TACKLES
There will be critics and detractors of Jayden Daniels' performance last night, however without Daniels' dual threat abilities, the Tigers may have lost by two scores.
He'll need to figure out how to best utilize his legs; instead of bailing on open receivers to run for "open" gaps, which closed very quickly or led to vicious hits (like the brutal body-slamming FSU gave him or Jared Verse's 2 sacks), Daniels must find a rhythm with LSU's receiving corps.
Mike Denbrock's play-calling offered Daniels no favors through 3 1/2 quarters, although without the former Arizona State QB's unbelievable pace in the open field or within a collapsing pocket, LSU's offense may have left their defense on the field for the better part of 3 straight quarters.
For all the judgements of Daniels, there also must be something said very clearly here....
He acted, performed and led LSU like a starting quarterback....showing incredible leadership to fend off Kayshon Boutte's sideline tantrum as well as continually turning dead-end plays into yards.
Becoming the first LSU quarterback to toss in excess of 200 yards and rush for over 100 since Joe Burrow, Daniels pulled off the impossible: Capping off an incredible 99 yard drive, with a single minute on the clock and one timeout left, by throwing a madcap touchdown to Jaray Jenkins with 0:00 on the clock.
Throughout that drive, we witnessed what could be with Daniels as starter:
Hitting Nabers & Jenkins twice, Mason Taylor for that crazy penultimate dive out of bounds, even connecting with Boutte on a crucial 4th down, Daniels was operating at a high level.
No turnovers, only 9 incomplete passes....26 completions....13 broken tackles....there is a lot to love about Daniels, but he has to put it all together for this offense to be near their potential.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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